Ignition Interlock System FAQs

Despite the research, there are still some questions surrounding the use of ignition interlock systems and how effective they are. These devices have been vastly improved thanks to modern technology. They are a safe, trustworthy and effective way to keep DUI offenders from repeating behavior. Here are some of the most common questions about these devices:

Do ignition interlock systems really lower recidivism rates?

According to the research, ignition interlock systems do keep DUI offenders from getting behind the wheel with alcohol in their system. This holds true for first time offenders and for habitual offenders.

Oftentimes when the systems are first installed in the driver’s vehicle, the offender will attempt to override the device, and possibly even try to disengage the system all together. Research shows that over time, offenders give up on trying to shirk the system, possibly because they realize the advanced technology that goes into these systems. They also discover that is it nearly impossible to circumvent the system.

How often do judges use ignition interlock devices as sentences, and why doesn’t it happen more often?

Nearly all 50 states have laws allowing judges to impose an ignition interlock device as a sentence. In fact, some 13 states actually REQUIRE DUI offenders, even first time offenders, to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicle.

Now that technology has perfected ignition interlock systems, more and more states will be requiring judges to order convicted DUI offenders to install the system into their cars. For example, in California, if a DUI offender is driving on a suspended license because of a DUI conviction, the court MUST impose a maximum of 3 years with an ignition interlock system. In New York, as of July 2010, the state requires a person convicted of DUI to have an ignition interlock system installed in their car. Their license must also have an ignition interlock restriction on it. In New Mexico and Utah, FIRST TIME OFFENDERS must have an ignition interlock device installed in their car — in Utah, for 18 months, and in New Mexico, for at least one year for first time offenders!

How do ignition interlock systems work?

The device is about the size of a cell phone. It is connected to the starter or the ignition, and in order for the DUI offender to start his or her vehicle, he must breath into the device. There is a pre-set limit for the driver’s BAC, usually .02%. If the tester registers above this pre-set limit, the car will not start. There is a circuit that connects the ignition switch and the starter system. (Remember, the ignition interlock system is not connected the engine, so it will not affect a running car.) If the breath sample is not provided, no power will reach the starter system. If the proper breath sample is given, the ignition interlock will close the circuit and the power will be provided to the car. Throughout the trip, the driver must provide breath samples to the device. If the driver fails a breath sample, the violation will be recorded and sent to the DUI offender’s probation officer or the judge.

The system does work, and if a DUI offender tries to tamper with the device, it will register as a violation and be sent to the offender’s probation officer. Thanks to cameras, rolling re-tests and hum-tone requirements, the device is safe and effective. Violations are recorded, and DUI offenders who try and shirk the system are punished. Remember, these devices are becoming more widely used as punishment.

How are ignition interlock systems installed?

The system should be installed by a licensed professional. It should take about 45 minutes to 2 hours to install, depending on the vehicle. During the installation, the offender will receive instructions on how to perform the proper breath test.

How do ignition interlock systems affect the DUI offender’s family?

Most family members are in favor of the system since it allows for the family to function normally. Taking away the license of one driver in a family can negatively affect children, finances and everyday way of life. Ignition interlock systems allow the family to continue to get where it needs to go without interruption. But of course, there is the added assurance that the DUI offender will not be driving with alcohol in his or her system, without punishing the offender’s family members.

Is the cost prohibitive for the state or for the DUI offender?

Most states require that the entire cost of the ignition interlock device be paid for by the DUI offender. This saves taxpayers thousands of dollars. The DUI offender pays less than 3 dollars a day to operate and maintain his or her ignition interlock system. There are programs for indigent persons available in many states. Different types of ignition interlock systems cost do vary. However, the most widely successful ignition interlock system is the electrochemical sensors because they are more sensitive machines. They will only respond to alcohol on the driver’s breath, unlike the semiconductors. The only drawback is they are slightly more expensive than the semiconductors, but they are considerably more accurate.

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